I am a self-confessed people pleaser. This means I tend to always put others first. I struggle to say ‘no’ to people and find myself going above and beyond for others, even at my own expense. Our culture encourages us (particularly women) to be selfless. We learn to always put other people’s needs and feelings first and wonder why we are always on the edge of burnout. So how do we protect our time and energy? One way is by setting and maintaining boundaries.
Boundaries are limits we can set for ourselves or others, which make us feel safe and valued. How do we know when we may need to put in a boundary? Ask yourself – how does this make me feel? How important is this to me? How negatively is this impacting on my life or the relationship with the person?
When we let something slide that makes us uncomfortable or frustrated, resentment can build. By voicing how we feel and what we need, we give others an opportunity to know us better and honour our needs.
In The Book of Boundaries, Melissa Urban categorises boundaries into three levels – green, yellow and red. Green is the gentlest, we are assuming the person wasn’t aware of our preference and kind, gentle language is used. For example, you may have a friend or family member who often pops over unannounced, while sometimes this is okay, it often throws off your routine. A green boundary may simply sound like, ‘I love that you live close, and we get to see each other so regularly, is it cool though if you start texting me before you come over. Life has gotten so busy lately and it would really help me out’. Now, hopefully, that person respects your new boundary and life goes on.
If they come by unannounced again, a yellow boundary may sound a bit firmer. ‘Oh hey, please don’t forget to text me before you come over, so I can let you know if I am free or not. Today I happen to be free, but I really need a heads up in the future’. If they continue to show up without texting after you have been clear, a red boundary may be needed. You can include how you will respond if they continue to ignore your boundary by saying, ‘I’ve asked you a few times now to text and check if I’m available before coming over, I won’t be answering the door next time you come by unannounced’.
This is just one small example, but boundaries can be beneficial in all areas of life. Many people will be receptive and understanding of your boundaries. For boundary newbies, particularly us people-pleasers, the thought of putting in boundaries may sound daunting, but your peace and wellbeing is worth it.
If you would like to support implementing boundaries in your life our family support workers here at Homebuilders are equipped to give you tools and support around this.